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SFS Annual Meeting

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Disturbances play crucial roles in many ecosystems, but common forms of disturbance are often artificially altered or removed by anthropogenic factors. Historically, Longleaf Pine forests of the southeastern U.S. experienced regular wildfires in intervals ranging from 1–10 years depending on habitat type. Fire suppression became widespread during the 1900s, and the effects on upland forests have been well documented. However, the impacts of altered fire regimes on wetlands embedded within Longleaf Pine forests have been less studied. Here, we examine decomposition rates and invertebrate communities in fire-suppressed versus firemaintained pine flatwoods wetlands using litter packs of three different types (Longleaf Pine, Black Gum, and Wiregrass). After 25d, average decomposition rates were faster in Black Gum (–0.015±0.002) than in pine (–0.010±0.001) and wiregrass (–0.008±0.001) regardless of fire history. This trend remained after 104d, with only 53% of Black Gum remaining compared to 76% of pine and 77% of wiregrass litter. Invertebrate samples from litter bags are still being processed, but we predict communities will differ based on litter type. Measuring decomposition rates of several litter types presents us with a better understanding of how altered disturbance regimes impact fundamental ecosystem processes.

Khalil Carson (Primary Presenter/Author,Co-Presenter/Co-Author), GEORGIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY,;

Checo Colon-Gaud (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Georgia Southern University,;

Houston Chandler (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), The ORIANNE SOCIETY,;